Christian women in particular feel an intense and absurd pressure to be full of joy and gratitude at all times—especially when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood and life in the domestic church.
I’m an ardent believer in the beauty of “living faithfully a hidden life,” as George Eliot wrote so beautifully in Middlemarch, but I also want women to know they don’t have to be full of joy all the time to be a light to another. Motherhood is a blessing, yes, a vocation, and a holy work. But it is also a cross. To claim we should be filled with visible joy all the time diminishes the sacrifice that motherhood requires, and it diminishes the power of the cross to be a powerful sign of life.
Motherhood requires our whole beings, and at times it feels we’ve sacrificed everything: our physical bodies, our mental health, our professional ambitions, even our spiritual lives. We give all of this and more, all while risking the greatest heartache and disappointment a woman might be asked to endure. We give birth and devote our lives to creatures who will live and sin and bless and disappoint and, ultimately, die.
Stillbirth in particular is a great taboo of motherhood, but so many of us are carrying crosses of grief and deep pain, and we carry them in shame and isolation. We need stories and art that give us a way to articulate our suffering, that let us know we’re not alone, that we are blessed even when we can’t be joyful. Sometimes letting others see you suffer and sharing your pain and your struggle to believe is what kindles the light that another soul so desperately needs to see.